A Bride’s Battle

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In order to fight for the rights of 350 women who married Kashmiri boys on the other side of the Line of Control (LoC), one of Kupwara’s ‘Pakistani’ brides is in the contest for the upcoming DDC polls, reports Hilal Shah

The husband-wife who succeeded in rebuilding their lives after they returned home from across the LoC. Samia Sadaf and Abdul Majeed Bhat

Of thousands of youth who crossed the Line of Control (LoC) during the 1990s’, not every one of them picked up a gun. A number of them settled there, started working and raised their families.

Almost 400 of these families were attracted by the 2010 rehabilitation policy announced by the Omar Abdullah government. They took the Nepal route to return home.

Abdul Majeed Bhat was one among them. He had crossed to the other side when he was 16 years and had passed his matriculation examination. Once on the other side, he started working as a day clerk for almost a decade. Finally, he decided to resume his studies.

“In 2003 I completed graduation from Maududi International Islamic Institute Lahore,” Majeed said. “Later I pursued masters in two subjects, Islamic studies in 2005 and the Arabic language in 2007 from Islamic University Islamabad.”

In 2003 Majeed was married to Samia Sadaf. Sadaf’s grandfather had migrated from Kashmir.  After marriage, her family provided them a piece of land on which they built two houses – one for themselves and another they put on rent. “We used to get Rs 1500 per head on a monthly basis from the government of Pakistan, Sadaf said. They are parents of three sons and a daughter.

A group of Pakistan origin Kashmiri brides held a protest at Kupwara on Friday, December 4, 2020. KL Image by Hilal Shah

The family decided to avail the rehabilitation policy. They took the Nepal route and immediately after Majeed was arrested for 15 days for illegally crossing the LoC.

 Once out of jail, he started rebuilding his life. Before leaving their Pakistan home, they had sold their property and that money they used to feed the family. They started living at their ancestral village in Tikir, in Kupwara outskirts.

“In 2015 I started a dairy farm to feed my family. I bought a number of cows from Punjab,” Majeed said. “It was not easy to start a business again. However, with the passage of time it grew and right now we are selling 150 kilograms of milk on daily basis and we have hired a helper.”

In 2015 Safia made his first visit to Pakistan where she met her parents. A year later, she completed her masters in Urdu through Moulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU). She had completed her graduation already in 2008 from the University of Punjab in Pakistan. She says she does not mingle her qualification with her actual profession – cattle grazing.

In 2018, Safia started her own knitting unit in a rented room. “We get orders in summers during which we get the raw material and by autumn we are ready with supplies,” Safia said. “Now I have two female employees at the unit and two more are being trained.”

Now Abdul Majeed Bhat has started rearing layers as Samia has joined politics.

Besides, Safia is also running a canteen at nearby school where she teaches.

The enterprising couple is adding to their activities. While Majeed has started a poultry farm where he is raring the layers, Safia has jumped into politics. She is contesting elections from Drugmulla constituency, where she is pitted against 11 others.

 “I have been working with a government scheme called State Rural Livelihood Mission (SRLM) which has given me an understanding of the situation in which people live,” Sadaf was quoted saying. She said the other women also associated with the scheme encouraged her to contest and are helping her to win.

While in politics, she says she has not forgotten the others. The brides from Pakistani side are around 350 and 75 are in Kupwara alone.

If she wins, Sadaf said she will work for these brides who lack even the basic rights. Interestingly, Kupwara witnessed their joint protest last week. Her participation in elections, however, is not something extra-ordinary. In the 2018 Panchayat polls, at least two Pakistani brides contested, one each from Langate and Khumriyal. 

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